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2011 Preview: Pokemon, MMOs, Gangster Action & 3rd Party Wii titles

Okamiden - NDS Screenshot - 817146

The first of five installments, GameZone Downloads Manager Mike Splechta reveals his Top 10 most anticipated 2011 games. Check back tomorrow to find out GameZone News & Games Editor B. James' picks as we discuss how exciting 2011 truly is.

Rune Factory Oceans Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment Developer: Neverland Co Platforms: Wii, PS3 Release Date: February 24, 2011

Rune Factory Frontier made its debut on the Wii in 2009 and ended up being a balanced mix of farming sim and hardcore dungeon crawler. Not much is known about Rune Factory Oceans as far as storyline goes, except that it takes place on an island that is on the back of a giant beast called Ymir, that players will actually get to control. Bundle that with farming elements, the ability to explore sunken ships and islands, and form bonds and relationships with supporting characters, much like a dating sim, this could very well be the time sink PS3 and Wii owners have been waiting for.

Concerns: The Wii and PS3 now share similar control schemes with the Move, so expect to see Oceans taking full advantage of this. For the sake of gamers like me who could not be more annoyed by waggle controls, I am praying for a standard control scheme using the good old Dualshock 3 or the Wii Classic controller.

L.A. Noire Publisher: Rockstar Games Developer: Team Bondi Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 Release Date: Q1/Q2 2011

One thing can be said for Rockstar; they are masters at immersing you in their game world, be it Liberty City from GTA IV, or the wild west of Red Dead Redemption. Their latest venture takes place in the city of Los Angeles, set during the 1940s. Players will be on the case, trying to solve a series of murders, all in an open world setting that players come to expect from Rockstar. This change up of the standard mission based structure, and focus more on crime solving sounds intriguing. On the presentation side, I'm eager to see the “film noir” visuals, and how accurately they will invoke the 40's.

Concerns: I do have concerns how well crime solving will work in an open world, but if there is any studio that can pull it off, it's Rockstar. My main concern is not with the game itself, but rather with the release. L.A. Noire is one of those games that has been on the radar for some time, yet it kept getting pushed back. Here's to hoping it gets its scheduled release.

Yakuza 4 Publisher: Sega Developer: CS1 Team Platforms: PS3 Release Date: March 15, 2011

The Yakuza series is an acquired taste. It's less about the open world and more focused on telling a narrative. Yakuza 4 may be a year old game considering it came out in Japan this past March, but that doesn't make the anticipation any less exciting to be able to go back to the Kabukicho district. Fans of the series, including myself, were disappointed with Yakuza 3's content cuts. This time Sega is aiming to right the wrongs, one of them being including Hostess Bars. Another exciting aspect is the interweaving storyline from four different characters, all which are playable, though Kazuma fans can rest easy knowing their tough-as-nails badass with a heart of gold is still the main focus.

Concerns:Though Sega has announced that they will include activities that were previously cut, they did mention they will be keeping almost everything intact. The word 'almost' scares fans that want the ultimate Japanese experience, but I'm sure that the myriad of activities and side missions will more than enough satiate players appetites.

De Blob 2 Publisher: THQ Developer: Blue Tongue Entertainment Platforms: 360, PS3, Wii, NDS February 22, 2011

De Blob, the Wii's sleeper hit of 2008, let you take on the role of a blob, and bring color to a monochromatic world. The announcement of a sequel was a pleasant surprise, since the first game was an absolute joy to play. Rolling, bouncing, and most importantly, painting the world in different colors that can be mixed, and bringing that world to life was both entertaining and addictive. I'm excited to see this world brought to next-gen consoles, as well as seeing how the gameplay will change from the first game. The game is set to feature upgrades for Blob, as well as some new gameplay segments involving interiors of buildings, where the view switches from a 3D perspective, to a 2D sidescroller.

Concerns: Though the first game was a blast, I'm hoping that these updates change De Blob 2 enough to make it feel more like a sequel, and not just more of the same with updated visuals.

Pokemon Black and White Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Game Freak Platforms: NDS Release Date: Spring 2011

The Pokemon craze continues with the upcoming Black and White titles. The universe expands with the introduction of a 156 completely new Pokemon, and will add different graphical flair such as in-battle monster animations to replace those static Pokemon images, as well as some 3D areas that change up the camera from the standard overhead perspective. This is still however the same “Gotta Catch 'Em All” game fans know and love, and will undoubtedly put in tens, or even hundreds of hours to obtain every single one of those critters.

Concerns: It is too bad the developers didn't wait and make the game for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS. The updated visuals could have really benefited from appearing 3D, not to mention seeing your collected Pokemon battle it out in stereoscopic goodness. With that said, even with some of the different 3D looking areas, it's still very much the same art style that Game Freak is known for. This is somewhat disappointing since I, as well as many other fans are wishing for a complete graphical overhaul. With that said, I do have my trainer cap ready, in hopes to become “the very best, like no one ever was!”

Torchlight 2 Publisher: Runic Games Developer: Runic Games Platforms: PC Release Date: Q1 2011

Torchlight was a surprisingly fun and extremely well made Diablo clone. It wasn't trying to hide its inspiration either; from town portals, to scrolls of identify, three skill trees to improve, etc. Torchlight 2 aims to build up on its predecessor's foundations by adding more classes, bigger environments and most importantly, multiplayer. Now you and a couple of friends can roam the lands and level up your characters with your pet companions at your side. Sure it's no Diablo III, but it is most certainly the next best thing to feed your appetite until its inevitable release.

Concerns: My main concern is the functionality of multiplayer. Runic Games have stated that Torchlight 2 will give them experience with handling multiplayer, meaning if they don't test this enough prior, it could end up being a lag-heavy, un-enjoyable experience. Here's to hoping for some early beta testing (hint hint).

Star Wars the Old Republic Publisher: EA Games Developer: BioWare Platforms: PC Release Date: Q1 2011

I've played my fair share of MMO's, both pay and free to play. After many years of WoW, I felt like I was going through the same grind over and over. Naturally I'm excited for Star Wars the Old Republic not only because I'm a huge Star Wars nerd, but I need to get the horrid Star Wars Galaxies completely out of my system. Boasting over tens of thousands spoken dialogue with Mass Effect style conversations, visuals that have been named stylized realism, and storylines custom to each class, this is one MMO to look out for. Bioware is not known to disappoint when it comes to immersive RPG experiences, so I hope that holds true for MMO's as well.

Concerns: Numerous speculations have been made that since the developers are focusing so much on dialogue and voice acting, the rest of the game ends up suffering due to lack of attention. All I can say is “have faith.” Bioware has so far never released a half-assed game that doesn't appear finished. This sort of pedigree is something fans have been able to rely on and hopefully it will continue.

Sorcery Publisher: SCE Developer: The Workshop Platforms: PS3 Release Date: Q2 2011

The Playstation Move has not yet had any stellar titles as of yet. The launch line up ended up mostly poor and left early adopters with “lollipop” controllers in their hands, and no games worth playing in their systems. Sorcery was first shown at E3 2010 and blew me away with the possibilities. Not a lot is known about the actual storyline, except that you play as a sorcerer's apprentice on a quest to stop the Nightmare Queen from enshrouding the world in darkness. The Move is used to control the characters wand. Varying swooshes of the wand send out different spells, which looked extremely intuitive and satisfying. I also liked that using a potion required you to shake it up first and then gulping it down by performing the gesture of drinking from a vial.

Concerns:The biggest hurdle will be making sure that the game actually detects your movements. Many Move games require constant calibration which is both annoying and tedious, and even then often times fails to fully recognize movements. I'm hoping the developers can fully work out the Move's shortcomings and make it a truly immersive, wizarding experience.

TERA Publisher: En Masse Entertainment Developer: Bluehole Studios Platforms: PC Release Date: Q1 2011

If there is one MMO I can't wait to get my hands on next year besides Star Wars, it's TERA. The Exiled Realm of Arborea is a full on action MMO, meaning combat takes place in real time. Forget auto-targeting, you will be hacking and slashing, blasting spells, and dodging incoming attacks, in a sprawling, gorgeous, fantasy open world much like the lands of Azeroth. What's more intriguing is the concept of PVP. In other MMOs, gear plays a huge part in success, whereas the rest is having the best skills set to convenient macros. In TERA however, since the action is real time, it seems that actual skill will play a much bigger factor rather than having the best gear. The concept behind TERA has not yet been done in the MMO genre, and it's looking to be a contender to the juggernauts that are now dominating the scene.

Concerns: Making an MMO in this day and age is a risk, due to WoW still dominating the scene, making other MMO's go free to play to sustain some form of income. I'm hoping that TERA's real-time gimmick will give them the edge over competition and see it thrive.

Okamiden Publisher: CAPCOM Developer: CAPCOM Platforms: NDS Release Date: March 15, 2011

Okami was a masterpiece at its time of release, with its gorgeous paintbrush art style and its own twist on the Zelda style gameplay. Okamiden is a direct sequel taking place nine months after the original story. The Demons of Nippon return and Sakuya attempts to yet again summon Amaterasu for help, but instead finds Chibiterasu, the Sun Goddesses child. Utilizing the paintbrush elements of Okami, the touch screen will be the players canvas as they can draw to help solve puzzles and defeat enemies. New features such as partners that will team up with Chibiterasu to help him/her explore unreachable areas of Nippon. The art style remains true to the original with heavy paint strokes outlining the characters and the different environments and manage to look stunning even on the Nintendo DS.

Concerns: Okamiden's major hurdle is actually brought upon by the original game. Though Okami was a beautiful achievement, poor sales indicated the lack of interest for the game. It's almost a surprise that after so many years, CAPCOM is trying to revive the franchise despite the originals failure. I for one am excited for a sequel and can't wait to bring life back to a colorless world with possibly the cutest main character to grace the DS.

Charmander
Mike Splechta GameZone's Editor-in-Chief, retro game enthusiast, savior of kittens. Follow me @Michael_GZ
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Games: Okamiden - NDS

Tags: MMORPG

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